Why Use a Wood Deck Brightener 4.8/5 (36)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Why Use a Wood Deck Brightener

Deckstainhelp.com remains committed to being your number one reference for deck restoration professional tips and industry news. For a beautifully stained wood deck that remains beautiful throughout the season and beyond, we strongly recommend a high-quality wood deck brightener following a cleaner or stripper. As always, we appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below.


Wood deck maintenance is important to the lifespan of any deck. Proper cleaning and staining are necessary on a regular basis to protect the deck from the harsh environment. Prior staining the surface needs a good cleaning. A clean surface will ensure proper adhesion and stain penetration. Cleaning a wood surface prior to staining will also enhance the beauty of the wood and give you a better end result.

There are several necessary steps in the wood cleaning process to prepare the surface for a new coat of stain. The first step is to clean the wood with a quality wood cleaner to remove all the dirt, grime, mold, mildew, graying, and mill glaze. The aid of a deck cleaner will help break up and remove these contaminants that may prevent the new stain from performing.

Most all quality deck cleaners contain caustic soaps that make cleaning a deck both easier and more effective. The downside to a caustic cleaner is that raises the pH level of the wood and makes it appear very dark in color. Let’s explore some reasons why this is not ideal if not dealt with and how using a deck brightener can restore the wood.

  1. Deck stains adhere and penetrate the wood better that is more acidic. So when the wood is left with a high pH balance the stain will not penetrate or perform as well as it should. This jeopardizes the longevity of the stain causing more frequent maintenance and costing you more money.
  2. The increased pH level also darkens the wood which can affect the overall appearance of the deck even after it is stained.

The way this phenomenon is reversed is to simply apply a neutralizing acid to the wood after cleaning it. This mild acid formula known as deck brightener or deck neutralizer cancels the condition of the caustic soaps and restores the wood’s pH balance to a more neutral or acidic state. This also “brightens” the wood and enhances the wood grain. Once the wood brightener has done its job it can be rinsed off and your prep work is complete.

This two-step cleaning and deck brightening process is the same one used by professional deck cleaners and can give you similar results. It enhances the beauty of your wood deck and ensures you get maximum protection and lasting results from your deck stain.

Have a Question on Brightening Wood? Ask Below


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Nicholas Ciano
Nicholas Ciano

I have a question. I use a pressure washer – surface cleaner to clean the wood deck first. It is a commercial pressure washer 4000 psi @ 4 gpm that makes the deck look brand new. The wood is very bright and clean after use. I do not use a deck cleaner. Therefore the PH balance of the wood is not compromised. Do i still need to use a deck brightener? One more question. Do you need to use brightener for dark semi transparent stains? I would think if i am using a pressure washer for cleaning, maybe use the brightener for transparent stains only. Any advice would be great.

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LisaT
LisaT

We have a beautiful cypress fence going up in Florida. The cypress sawmill recommended a boric acid solution followed by oil based stain. My husband has had great success on a previous treated pine fence with the Defy product line- 3 step cleaner, brightener, then water based stained. We want to use a transparent or semi-transparent tintable stain. (Posts and lattice are solid stained treated pine.)
Which route do you recommend and why?
If oil based, which brand is best?
How long must we wait for the wood to “season” before application?

LisaT
LisaT

Please remove previous photo. Mistakenly posted wrong photo with contractor present. Here is correct photo.

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Beth Julien
Beth Julien

My first attempt at stripping the deck was not completely successful, so I did not brighten right after stripping (though I did rinse thoroughly). I plan to repeat stripping in areas where old stain is still there. But, it’s raining so the second stripping step is delayed. Question : Will the rain neutralize the deck? Or, should I apply brightener to the whole deck once I re-strip the remaining spots? Thanks

Joan
Joan

What’s best brightened ? I used Sherwin Williams deck stain remover followed instruction. I want to use Australian timber oil after. What do you think? It’s a covered porch in New England

Joan
Joan

I used Sherwin Williams deck stain remover it was a thick consistency , it is dark and doesn’t appear to be that clean? What brightened should I use? I want to use Australian oil after it’s a large surface so I’m nervous

Jayme
Jayme

Hi there, trying to decide on an Armstrong semi-transparent color. Ordered the samples and applied to some scrap wood, but they all look the same on the scrap wood (pressure treated pine like my deck, not as weathered as my deck). Will wood brightener affect the color of the applied stain?

Many thanks.

frank
frank

I just striped that brand stain off my Cumaru deck after 3 years. it was a brutile job.

Ian
Ian

I have started using a Behr all in one deck cleaner/brightener on some 20 year old unstained Ipe and it seems to be working for stain prep. Can I trust the ph balance or should I look for a 2 step system elsewhere?

Iiz
Iiz

Will wood brighter damage vinyl siding and windows ?

Matt
Matt

Love the forum. Any thoughts on using Barkeeper’s friend as a brightening agent? It contains oxalic acid which I guess is in many wood brighteners. I’ve tried looking at Lowe’s and Menards for wood brightener but surprisingly they don’t have it and it’s a little more expensive online so I’m looking for an alternative. Thanks!

Jim
Jim

Trying to maintain a deck that takes a beating. It’s 5/4 cedar decking. I replaced some rotten boards with new cedar and want to use a brightener to eliminate mill glaze. My concern is what the brightener might do to the older existing boards that are adjacent to the new boards. The old boards have a semi-transparent, water-based stain. will the brightener effect the stained boards? Thanks!

Missy
Missy

Scrubbed down my deck with an oxygen bleach solution because it had black mold on it. This was a couple weeks ago. Had to sand it all down but didn’t want to sand the mold too. The wood is now sanded and all nice and bright for the most part but there are still little black spots in the wood but I cannot sand them all away. I intend to put a semi solid oil based stain on it. Since the finish had worn quite a bit in a lot of places the oxygen bleach solution did get on to bare wood in places. Do I need to use an acidic brightener on the deck before staining? It has rained several times since the scrubbing. Also, are the little black spots in the wood going to cause a problem with the stain? I don’t think rescrubbing the deck now that it’s sanded is going to get rid of these little spots. If I do need to rescrub it, do I have to resand? Sorry for all the questions… this is my first battle with a wood deck!

Judy
Judy

I power washed an older cedar fence and ended up sanding it as I did like the surface. It looks great now. Should I use deck brightener and how long do I have to wait before I stain?

Kate
Kate

Hi, we just cleaned our pressure treated pine deck with a solution of oxi-clean, borax, dawn detergent, and water. It is several years old and previously had no stain on it. It had significant algae and mildew staining. What is your advice on whether or not we need to apply deck brightener? Thanks!

Wanda
Wanda

I’m stripping my deck in stages so it has taken me a few days, I have wood brightener that I was going to do when finished. Have I made a mistake for waiting? Also planning on sanding some

Michael
Michael

I have a 40ftx8ft cedar planked dock, the cedar decking was bought new, but is about a year old and turned grey. I would like to get the original cedar honey colour back, they apply a clear sealant to keep the natural colour of the wood. Should I use a wood cleaner? Or wood brightener? Or both?

I have had good luck with the Olympic brand clear sealer, but a co worker SWEARS by the Messemers stuff, any thoughts?

Tracy A Tender
Tracy A Tender

Hi we recently put up a cedar deck with log poles that had been peeled three years ago. The railings are more recently cut and drilled by a local guy. After reading I understand I did a bad thing but I bleached everything and pressure wash on a hot sunny day. The rails seem the worse but the logs also have some per white. I have tried sanding and it helps some. Wondering what you recommend?

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Linda
Linda

A week ago, we had our one-year-old cedar deck power washed and brightened. Once dry, it had a lot of furring, and although the contractor said it was fine to apply the stain that way, my husband and I believed it needed to be sanded based on what I had read on your site. Since the contractor said that sanding would be at a significant additional charge, we decided to sand it manually using 80 grit paper. We were able to remove at least 90 percent of the “fuzzies,” which seems acceptable to us. Now, I understand the deck will need to be brightened again, thoroughly rinsed, and then dried for several days before staining.

Questions:

Does it matter whether the wood is wet or dry when the brightener is applied for the second time? (It was not rinsed off the first time he applied it.)

While we were sanding, the yellow-ish color of any screws that weren’t deeply set enough came off, so now some of them are shiny. Do we need to replace them to avoid rusting?

Thank you for your help,

Melanie
Melanie

Hi, I am about to install Mangaris on my rooftop deck. Do I need to use cleaner & brightener for new wood? It is dusty, but that’s about it. Thank you for your help!

Melanie
Melanie

Can I just get an answer from you here, please? I have a special wood, Mangaris. It’s supposed to be mold resistant, and all the posts that you sent me to with your link are confusing to me. I would like a clear answer back. Thank you!
PS: My wood has “weathered” in the garage for the last year.

Mary
Mary

Instructions on SW Revive Deck & Siding Brightener contradicts your article. See under “Application” it states that Deck Wash must be used after Revive Brightener to neutralize the surface. Other conflicting info on their Instructions on Deck wash under “Tips” says Deck Wash must be applied to “completely dry”surface so how does it neutralize the Brightener if you let Deck dry after brightening???
Is my deck going to turn dark if I follow their instructions & use Brightener, then wash?
What do you recommend?? I’m refinishing an older pine deck previously stained with semi transparent oil and going back with semi transparent oil. Sanded twice with 60 grit.

Jim English
Jim English

I have a pine t&g floor under a porch roof. I have sanded the old finish off down to the bare wood. Do I need to use a brightener or can I apply the finish to the bare wood? I am planning to use Cabot gold.

Salal
Salal

Will Restore a deck brightener damage stucco?

Larry D.
Larry D.

Can a wood cleaner and brightener treatment be used/effective on damp wood, i.e., following rain?

Adrienne
Adrienne

After two cleaners and power washing!

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Judy
Judy

I would love to see the results post deck brightener, as I am currently at this same point.

Adrienne
Adrienne

What are the ingredients in deck brightened? I used two different deck cleaners, the last appeared to be bleach. Also, I can’t seem to locate deck brightener in stores near me.

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Brenda
Brenda

what are the directions using a deck brightener after cleaning the deck?

Bob
Bob

After Brightening the wood, how long can you leave the deck prior to staining it? Why- because I don’t know when I will have two consecutive days of no rain for it to dry properly.

Ben
Ben

I have Olympic maximum cape cod gray solid stain on my wooden deck.I did this job last month.
My question is now we have gypsy moths frass/droppings and I try to sweep at least once a day but they still will leave brown colored stains behind.
What is the best product (s) To use .vs making my own. I was thinking about mixing water and bleach not sure the mix.

Thanks

Denise
Denise

Hi, The deck boards and top rails of my deck are Ipe and the posts, balusters and base rails pt wood. It’s been 8-10 years since anything has been done to the deck. We just had it power washed with a cleaner and I’ve ordered Defy stain to apply. There are still some black areas on spindles and posts a whitish coating in places on the Ipe top rails. I want to do this right. Recommendation? Thanks!

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Heidi
Heidi

Hi, I Have a 1 year old PT deck located in new england and it receives full sun. I plan on using armstrong clark cedar tone transparent stain. I pressure washed the deck this past weekend to get rid of any graying and residue. its almost completely even in color, i am going to lightly buff areas that are not. I did not use a cleaner of any sort just plain water with pressure wash. Do you suggest that i still use a brightener? just wondering if the deck ph needs to be brought up if there has been no cleaner applied and it is only a year old? Thanks in advance! Ill post pics of my before and after wink

Penny
Penny

I have a large cedar deck. I seem to have to restain every year. Thought I would try and get away with not doing it this year. My problem is the deck looks dusty. No matter how much I wash it. Just tried using 30 second cleaner to remove algae. No luck. Any advice would be appreciated!

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Richard Borders
Richard Borders

I stripped my deck with Sherwin William’s stain and sealer remover and pressure washed it off two days ago and now the wood is fuzzy. I’m planning on sanding it smooth.
My question is should I apply the brightener before or after sanding ?

Katharine
Katharine

I did not realize that it was so important to apply the deck brightener as soon as possible after cleaning the deck. It has been raining here but is supposed to clear up today. Can I apply the brightener to a wet deck? Will the brightener be less effective because of the length of time (approx three days) between the cleaning and brightening?

Ron
Ron

Spindles on my wood deck railing are partially grey even after power washing. How can I remove the grey?

Deb
Deb

I have a product by Flood that is a cleaner/brightener combo, is this ok to use to neutralize the wood before staining? Thanks

Gerry Catry
Gerry Catry

Back again. For a cedar deck in Ottawa, Canada that takes a ton of sun every summer and then a ton of snow/freeze/thaw every winter, and that had Defy stain peel after a second season, I’m down to three choices: Defy again (and live with restaining every 2 years), Restore A Deck (I like that it can be applied to a wet deck), or Armstrong Clark oil based (maybe oil based will survive our winters better?). Thoughts/recommendations?

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Don
Don

I’m in Ottawa as well. And we used the AC Amber stain on our fence it held him really well but it’s not being walked on like a deck.

Neil
Neil

I will be stripping a large deck and I doubt if I will finish in one setting. Should I brighten the stripped area or wait until I finish the rest of the deck, which may be several days later?

Gerry Catry
Gerry Catry

https://photos.app.goo.gl/m81hdMEURrEif4ax7

Defy stain for cedar/hardwood – applied June 2017. Huge variation between good and bad areas. Any advice? Also, what are the drawbacks to just brightening a cedar deck once a year and never applying stain? Only asking because I live in Ottawa, Canada and the longest I’ve had any stain last is one year.

Justin Ford
Justin Ford

I stained my deck last year with a solid water based stain. Will wood brightener make the stain brighter or what can I use to make it look fresh again. I don’t think it needs to stained again. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Lyn Ladd
Lyn Ladd

Will wood brighter hurt Vinyl siding? I plan on using it on my fence as well as my deck.

Connie
Connie

We have two different problems on our redwood decking. I used a Cabot stain on our covered front porch and after about half a year, it began having white spots – I sent pictures to Cabot but they didn’t know what they were or how to treat them other than using a Cabot brand cleaner. We had a massive new deck put in last spring and I used Cabot again – was so disappointed with the appearance of all of the boards that took on a black look over the winter – again, sending pictures to Cabot didn’t resolve anything – I was hoping for advice on what to do. I rolled the stain on both decks. I’m 77 – willing to try anything.

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Bob
Bob

Is Olympic Premium Deck Brightener and Wash carcinogenic.

Brett
Brett

I’ve been using Restore A Deck stripper on a series of porches and decks, which has been somewhat successful. But some sections haven’t come off and I’ve been sanding them. Underneath the wood is pretty dark and grey.

The Restore A Deck stripper says to apply brightener immediately while still wet, but then I need to do it again after sanding off anything that didn’t come off with the stripper. I’m wondering if it’s a problem to let the stripper dry and just do the brightener once before I’m ready to apply stain?

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell

Hello……. I have a large treated pine deck that is about 15 years old. I’ve never really done much if anything to it. The boards are old and gray but still in fair shape. I’ve only had to
replace two of them about 6 months ago. Here are my questions and thanks for your help;

1 – if I follow your recommendations of cleaning, brightening a sanding do you feel I can bring the overall look of this deck back to a respectable looking state?
2 – should I then stain this deck with a semi-transparent stain or with the deck being this old should I use a solid color stain?

Jay G
Jay G

Thanks for the website! I built a cedar shadow box style fence last year and it has only slightly grayed but I want to clean it to get it back to its original color (or close to) and then stain it.
1) Would you recommend using a cleaner although there is no current stain on it and it has been less than 1 year since I built it.
2) Would a brightener still be useful without a cleaner?
3) What stain/sealant would you recommend to bring out the natural colors?
Thanks!

S C
S C

We have a 3-month old deck of kiln dried redwood. At the advice of the GC who built it, we stained the floor a month after installation with Armstrong Clark to protect it during the rainy season. Since then there has been a ton of tannin bleed on the stained boards and the stained surfaces now look very dark and dingy. We tried a Restore a Deck cleaner and brightener on a couple of the stained steps and the tannin bleed cleaned up great after brightening. Now we would like to clean and brighten everything. Does applying cleaner and brightener within a few months of our last coat of stain destroy the protective qualities of the stain? i.e., do we have to restain every time we clean+brighten, or will doing so cause excessive stain buildup?

Bernie Phyland
Bernie Phyland

I have sanded back my old merbau timber decking but haven’t had a chance to re oil/stain . If I wait say 6 months will that have an effect of the final outcome in regards to bringing out the natural colour of the merbau timber .
Regards
Bernie

Wayne
Wayne

Just pressure washed my deck and I have some red stain left. I would like to keep the grain so I don’t want to go solid. Suggestions? Also after pressure wash how long should I wait for stain. Temps are in the 50s to 60s.

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John
John

I discovered your site halfway through my deck restoration. The deck in question is a south-facing, 2nd story parquet-style deck that is a very weathered 27 yrs old. Previous owners covered it with Deckover which didn’t adhere well and I had to scrape & sand it off as it was ugly and trapping water. 80% of the actual decking I’ve replaced with new PT pine boards over which my partner has installed plastic deck tiles. In the spring I plan to stain the decking and reinstall the tiles after thats done.

The current dilemma is that I’ve just finished sanding the railing caps, rails, spindles and posts down to clean wood. I began staining (Armstrong-Clark Semi-Transparent Driftwood) them but then the weather just turned to low 50’s and rainy…it looks like 1-2 weeks before 60’s and some sun. The first section seemed to stain well without brightening but after reading about proper prep, I went out and bought some Olympic Deck Brightener and Wash that was on sale. While I wait for better conditions, would it be a good idea to prep in wet low-50’s? And is this product good enough?

nick
nick

I clean my deck with deck cleaner and power washer, and there is still green and black stains in deck. will the brightener take away the stains? do i have to get the stains out before sealing it? My concern is if i dont get the stain out the sealant wont hold properly.

Thomas
Thomas

I used the RAD cleaner and it was doing a great job, but when I ordered more, I accidentally ordered stripper instead of cleaner. The deck had never been stained. Would it be okay to use the stripper and then the brightener in place of the cleaner?